How Detroit Became America’s Warzone
Ridin’ across Detroit – nothing new for decades.
In part the hood resembles a war zone… as time passes more and more buildings abandoned
and set on fire. Far from the iconic image of an Industrial center, the real Detroit
is an illustration of the negative side of the globalization, the consequences of the
Communications and Information Age, the roadside of the digital highway. My friend ain’t here, She might bring me something
to eat. How many people live here, in this apartment? Four. Is this vicinity dangerous? Very Why? Because
they’ve been killing people, a lot of gangs run through here and have their initiations, What did you
do on Ford? Just putting on tires, on assembly line. I mean automobile industry is going
to China. You know we’re losing lot of jobs here, especially in Michigan. Luis worked at Ford and knows much about globalization — He is typical of the homeless in Detroit. There are more than 15,000 homeless in the
city. They are enthusiastic speakers when it comes to reasons for their problems.
Businesses are going from United States. Lot of businesses going like…Canada is getting
some, Mexico is getting some, because its cheaper labor, and they don’t have to pay
as much hospitalization and Union dudes and all that staff, And the employment and the
rate of pay is a whole lot cheaper, so that’s where they going. There’s no work in Michigan.
Even people with degrees have a hard time getting work. If you ride around some neighborhoods,
East side, West side, all you see is vacant houses, All you see is vacant
houses man, And you see this white pieces of paper in that window in the vacant house,
that means it was evicted. Michigan Central Depot — a Detroit landmark,
it tells a lot about the city’s history and its path of the Industrial development. Built
in 1913 it used to be the symbol of new modern times and prosperity. Henry Ford made it a
business center at the crossing of the railroads and trams lines. The Great Depression put an
end to the economical development. The Great Highway system replaced the railroad and put
an end to the Depot. It was simply not needed in the time of the car. A symbol of the automobile’s
complete triumph over public transportation the Station is still there as well as all
the surrounding buildings. Good times never came back to the area. Some of the buildings
were used as storages till early 90-s but at some point people left completely, they
left all their stuff inside, like if it was infected with a deadly virus, but the real
reason is simple — it would cost money. I think they don’t fix it its because its
too expensive, and there’s no use for it. And I think that says a lot about American
culture, of things being disposable, even beautiful buildings are disposable.
Charles Psenka is a Detroiter with roots but the only reason for him to visit the city
is his hobby — the web-site devoted to abandoned buildings. He takes photos and then posts
them online. His business and home are couple of hours from Detroit. Charles says the abandonments
are used often to store and sell drugs and are very dangerous — there can even be booby-traps
to protect the illegal trade. This are all measuring spoons, three different
sets, four different sets, one two three, four. There were probably used to cook heroin.
Would be my guess. Right about the time the automotive industry quit this city I guess would be a
good starting point for the decline. A lot of jobs left, A lot of secure jobs left, very
good manufacturing jobs, a lot of that may be had to do with the unions, that the Unions
fought so hard, and so well for the workers, that may be the companies couldn’t afford
them anymore? Casinos, make sure you film casinos before you leave town. They are beautiful
buildings, brand new gorgeous buildings. And the areas around them are also brand new,
beautiful. And occupied, lots of people going in and out. Lots of money being spent. Its
all based on gambling you know, and the city make a good enough of money out of that. Another example of the decline — the legendary
Carl’s steak-house. It been here for almost a century and once had dozens of waiters and
cooking staff. You say a motherfucker in Russia? Forget about
it. This is America. Today the chief Ioannis and the waiter Max
are among the few members of staff. Max is a Russian immigrant and has worked
here for 30 years. 20 years ago you couldn’t come in into this
restaurant. You had to wait in line for about 45 minutes to get a table. Right now look
— its empty, on the regular, on the Sunday. Monday rush hour. Not a surprise the center
is empty. Dozens of buildings here are abandoned, including
twelve of the skyscrapers. The main question — what to do with this massive but useless
architectural structures — has remained unanswered for decades. The only giant in this ghost
Downtown is the General Motors headquarters – the Renaissance center. The industry leader
has its offices here. But the manufacturing facilities are in areas where labor is cheaper.
The nearest GM plants are right across the river, in Canada. The country gives incentives
worth hundreds of millions of dollars to GM and other carmakers in order to create more
jobs for its citizens. The Renaissance center hasn’t lived up to
its name. GM closed four of its plants at its home in Michigan, in 2006 to 2008 and
six in other states. More than 12 000 American jobs will be lost. With new plants opening
in other corners of the world, GM now employees almost 3 hundred thousand people in 31 countries.
That’s the equivalent to third of Detroit’s total population.
And this building Downtown is ground zero for the Detroit Industrial age — the first
Ford workshop. The automobile boom started here …and here the assembly line was invented.
It would take the car industry away from its home town later. The building hides a place
that encapsulates the story of Detroit more than any other. Michigan Theatre built in 1926 used to be
the biggest in the city. It now a car park — a symbiosis of art and cars in the Motorcity.
The theater lost the struggle with Television as the people moved out from Detroit. After
the Theatre was closed in the mid sixties it became a porn cinema, than a rock club,
but neither were financially viable. Only car parking for the workers of the office
building nearby proved to be a money earner — a tough but profitable decision.
June and Lester Thompson are architecture and history teachers in the University of
Michigan and work on various learning projects on the city development of Detroit. They call
the total dependence on automobile manufacturing — Detroit’s crucial mistake in the Industrial
age. And the main problems began with the modernization of the industry.
They wanted to have long assembly line. And they couldn’t make a long assembly line unless
they had more land, because they couldn’t do it with four storey factories. So they
were beginning to look for the land that will allow them to have this assembly lines and
they began to leave the city. Whites began moving out to the suburbs. But blacks were
not allowed to move to the suburbs. And so you had and increasingly black and poor population
that was consentrated in the central city. The developers are now seeking to breathe
life back into the city streets and buildings. And some solutions turn upside down our understanding
of a city. The class that I worked with this semester
… There was so much vacant land in the neighborhood that we were working with that we actually
thought that one of the best options would be farms, to turn some of the vacant land
into farms. I think the word city has already changed. Yes, It has already changed for Detroit. Charles Psenka’s brewery is far outside Detroit
and is a typical model of local businesses. Charles says in a world of global communications
and information there is a total freedom to choose where to live, work and where to set
up your business. And that is why the city as a civilization phenomenon hasn’t survived
the changes. The city of Detroit has been facing some attrition
lately. Within the past several decades its been declining in population. Last statistics
guide of Detroit has 800 thousands people that actually live within the city proper.
The greater metropolitan area of South-East Michigan is over 4 million. So there is a
lot of people that live around Detroit but don’t live actually in Detroit. I think the
world is shrinking So I think its inevitable. Globalization has an impact on us in everything
from our bottle prices from our hops?? to the malt, And globalizations makes it perhaps
easier for us to sell beer in places like Japan or Denmark which have been a little
bit more difficult lets say a decade ago. In general the situation in Detroit can’t
be described as a disaster as it may seem judging by the images. The homeless in Detroit
have food delivered by various humanitarian organizations. Shelters are quite a common
thing for the area. But that can never be enough for the crisis zone. Some people like to mess with homeless people,
you know, they like to mess with handicapped people in wheelchairs, you know, young guys,
they call it having fun, you know, they are crazy, you know, they call it party, when
six guys jump on one guy, they call it party. When I was at Ford I worked on the line.
Assembly line. Putting up tails. And stuff like that. I didn’t hold that job very long.
The whole plant shut down and moved out of the city. That was about 20 years ago. I’m
fifty five years old and that was about 20 years ago. They send more money out of the
country than they spend here on their own people. That’s a shame, you want to raise your
homeless and can’t get no help. So many people are homeless and the shelters are full,
like tonight, shelters are full so I stay here. When the shelters ain’t full, I stay in the shelters
when I can, you know, or sometimes I stay with my friends, I never know, each night
I don’t know where I’m staying at night. People have been dying and it become a regular,
they froze, they OD, somebody fuck them up, you know, I’m telling you its just a bunch of chaos, man, bunch of chaos,
its sad, sad, So who will miss the city when its gone. Workers
in the car industry headquarters? The managers of global sales? The people who work in the few remaining skyscrapers down town? And what will they miss,
the spirit, the mood of the city? It appears that the era of the urban giants in the Western
world is passing. And Detroit is becoming one of the first ghosts of the industrial